Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has admitted that he made mistakes with his training schedules last season.
The Dutchman, who replaced David Moyes in May 2014, saw last season blighted by injuries and he has revealed that part of the problem was his insistence on high intensity, high volume training.
“Last year, we also had a lot of injuries, but then you could say that our training schedule was maybe too heavy,” said Van Gaal. “But this year, we have only had contact injuries. There are no muscle problems, only contact injuries, so it is not our fault any more.
“This year, we have a smaller group than last year, but we have an injury list of 14 or 15 players. Every week we have a big problem. So to reach our aim to be in the Champions League, it would be fantastic, and it would mean my staff will have done fantastically well. But, of course, so have the players, because they have to adapt every week to playing alongside new team-mates.”
Van Gaal also believes his current United team, who finished fourth last season, have improved and are now “better than last year’s”.
“I think this team is better than last year’s, but we don’t get the benefit of that because we have had so many injuries,” added Van Gaal.
“When we had only three or four players injured earlier in the season, we were first in the Premier League. But nobody remembers that.”
Van Gaal, who has set his sights on winning the Europa League, is focused on finishing in the top four despite the club’s chronic injury problems.
United had as many as 14 players on the sidelines recently and Van Gaal’s decision to progress through the season with a small squad did come under fire, but the emergence of talented youngsters such as Marcus Rashford and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson appear to have justified his thinking.
And it is those young players which Van Gaal believes will result in more talented youngsters joining the club in the near future.
“I had two maiden speeches with them, two conversations, first with Ed [Woodward] and later with the owners,” Van Gaal told the club’s website when asked about his appointment in 2014.
“They have said what the culture is of Manchester United and why they want me. One of the reasons was that. I used a lot of players also on the tour in America and on the tour last year. You need also the luck that youngsters are performing at that level.
“It’s not always the case and, when you see how many players I give the chance to show themselves, at the end only two are three players are finishing as a player of Manchester United. But, when you have me as the manager, you have a lot of chances. Also, a lot of players, because of that, are coming next season to Manchester United because they see that [I give them a chance].”
Asked what the key ingredient is for young players to make the first team, Van Gaal added: “They have to be open for their manager, their staff and, of course, open also for all the players who can guide them. I think we have a very good staff so it’s very wise that they are open and doing the things we are asking. But it always starts with the player himself. It’s not the manager.
“I’ve said it today to a player again – it’s not me, I’m doing always what I think I have to do but you put yourself in my attention and then I shall give you always a chance. Then, you have to grab it. It’s like that. It starts with the player but the player has to be open for a lot of things – not only the tactical situation or technical situation but how he stands in human life, how he can put his career in that human life because that’s also important.”